We are on lockdown. Summer lockdown, that is. We live a blessed life and, these days, my kids seem to be forgetting that as quickly as blue-gilled, Dory. I look at them more often like they’re escapees from some alien planet of the mentally-insane than like the two human life forms I tenderly grew in my body. Daughter, mostly, has been pushing boundaries and our buttons. I assume a lot is age or maybe it’s being out of a routine but her refusal the other day to sit in her car seat, after just buying her a bike and after just asking her 4 times calmly and kindly, had me speaking in tongues and spitting fire. My hair raised like snakes, my best Medusa in full glory. My voice dropped two octaves: Get in your %#^@%*& seat!All of my buttons had been pushed and similar to an elevator lit up like a Christmas tree, I was at my limit.
Now, she’s crying. I’m fuming. Husband is driving and our son, who I’ve not seen do anything, gets hit by a blanket that his sister has snapped in his face. I know this because Husband – typically the calmer of us two adults – is swerving off the road and P-uh-ISSED that Daughter has decided to take her anger out on Sonny.
If there was a fan in the car, the sh*t would have hit it because now he’s speaking in tongues. Something about JUST BUYING BIKES and NOT BEING GRATEFUL and NOT LISTENING and on and on. It’s a conversation all parents have, but this one, for us, was the one – the breaking point, the one that broke the camel’s back, the last straw, the nail in the coffin – that one.
And so began our talk about summer lockdown.
Truth be told, we were all in need of straightening out. Our kids aren’t bratty. More times than not they are quite lovely, very friendly, and know how to handle more social situations than most adults I know, but lately, they done lost their minds, forgetting to acknowledge the very blessed life we live and acting like our blessings are a right instead of a privilege. And I was tired of being a parent that yelled all of the time. I felt like “No” was an automatic response. No, don’t touch that. No, don’t jump on that. No, we can’t do that right now. I was tired of hearing myself so I could only imagine how tired they were of hearing me. Something drastic needed to happen.
When we got home, Husband and I walked them straight to their room and sat them down.
“We love you and we love doing awesome things with you. We enjoy taking you places and having fun and eating at restaurants or going for ice cream and buying you things but it seems like you think this is something that is owed to you… and it isn’t.” The lecture went on with words you’d expect, that most parents have probably muttered – Papi works hard for what we have… Not all kids have what you have… We are lucky to live the life we do – words that I’m sure slip right through the ears of a 3 and 4-year-old. Words that glide right off until they are hit with the “mic drop” moment, that is.
“So here’s what’s happening next…
No ice cream.
No buying stuff.
No going out.
We could ride our bikes or walk to the park or play with the toys we already have, but that’s kinda it.”
We knew what we were getting ourselves into. Summer lockdown wouldn’t only affect them; it would require change on our part as well. The leisurely morning coffee and watching The Today Show (my favorite part of summer breaks) was damn near off the table if our kids aren’t being entertained with morning cartoons. As parents this would be just as hard for us as it would be for them and we’d have to be ready to make adjustments too. Some things required talking and prepping (“At the birthday party, you can have one piece of cake because it is a special occasion – but no candy. No gum. No extras.”) Some situations required mini-breaks of calm-the-heck-down (for both parents and kids). Many moments required chess-like forethought and planning; being able to see into the future, recognizing a breakdown was coming, and figuring out -many moves ahead – how to avoid a bad position. And all moments required serious reflection (what in high hell is really going on here) and serious we-gotta-stick-to-this type grit.
See, summer lockdown wasn’t just about punitive consequences and punishing our kids. It was about taking a step back and whittling things down to the basics. In our normal, non-summer lives, we don’t watch much TV and we eat “treats” occasionally. Husband and I are big on routine, that works for us. But summer is different. With less routine and more e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, summer becomes a hedonistic free for all and kids, well, our kids, can’t handle that. At least not for long. Summer lockdown helped us uncover some of the contributing factors to our kids’ cray cray behaviors and helped us recognize that changing their behavior also means having to change ours a little. Like much with family, it requires we all chip in and do the work.